New Partners of Approved and Prospective Foster Carers
AMENDMENTThis chapter was substantially revised in March 2018 and should be re-read in full.
1. Existing Approved Foster Carers with New Partner
When an existing foster carer begins a new relationship the following safeguarding steps must be taken in all cases.
If the partner is not living in the home but a new relationship has begun and he/she is a regular visitor the SSW must meet the person with the approved foster carer to establish:
- The frequency of contact;
- Their understanding of the carers fostering role and establish their views and understanding about this;
- The Foster Carer must sign the supervision record to agree that they will not been involved in any parenting aspects relating to the CLA without a fuller assessment, the nature of which to be decided on depending on how the relationship develops.
IMMEDIATE CHECKS: DBS and other safeguarding statutory checks must be undertaken for any new partner having high levels of contact and visiting the family home.
Pending the completion of the full assessment, where the foster carer wishes his/her partner to stay overnight before the full assessment is completed, a Disclosure and Barring Service enhanced check must be carried out, and a risk assessment must also be completed to determine the level of additional checks required, before agreement to overnight stays can be given. The risk assessment should take account of, amongst other things, the number and ages of the children in the placement, their views about the foster carer's partner, the significance and stability of the relationship (including how long they have known each other) and the foster carer's history of fostering. Any agreement to overnight stays must be endorsed by the Team Manager and a discussion to be held with the Fostering Service Manager, as required.
A discussion must be held with the existing carer about whether they plan for the new partner to move into the home. If this is likely, a discussion needs to be held with both parties about the need for the new assessment to now be about them as a fostering couple.
- Where the proposed new member of the household is a partner of the foster carer, there will be a presumption that he or she will have a part to play in caring for any child in the placement and therefore a full assessment of his or her suitability for this role must be completed before the partner moves into the foster home. The same procedure for this assessment will be carried out as for any foster carer applicant and it will be presented to the Fostering Panel and the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering) in accordance with the preceding paragraphs of this chapter. There will be no presumption that any such assessment will be approved;
- It is the expectation that all foster carers must inform the fostering service should their circumstances with their partner change with regards to the status of the relationship, overnight stays, moving into the household and moving out of the household, as an assessment may be required;
- The couple must be assessed using level 1 competencies even where the existing carer is approved to level 2;
- It is important that the well-being of children and young people is safeguarded and that they are supported through any significant changes to their environment. To ensure foster carers are supported to maintain and/or amend their approval status, in exceptional circumstances whereby the foster carer was unable to notify the fostering service prior to their new partner (who should already be known to the fostering service) moving in, an immediate risk assessment and joint fostering assessment will need to be presented to the Fostering Panel within 16 weeks of the foster carer notifying the fostering service of the new partner moving in;
- All relevant references must be undertaken on the couple, with personal references concentrating on referees who know the applicants as a couple;
- The process for assessing new partners includes attendance at the 'Skills to Foster' course and an assessment on the new partner which must also include an update on the existing carer and the changes the new relationship has made on them and any children in the household. New personal references will be required.
In circumstances where the new partner is also a Hertfordshire County Council approved foster carer either individually or with another partner, a review of their approval must be undertaken within 6 months of joining the household. The review should concentrate on the new partnership and should consider carefully the new relationships created within the reconstituted household.
Consideration should be given as to the new category of approval as well as the effect on any child(ren) already in placement.
Reviews of these circumstances must always be presented to Fostering Panel in accordance with Fostering Panel Procedure.
If a new partner plans to move into the home and will not comply with these arrangements the existing foster carer will no longer be able to continue with their approval and will be invited to resign on these grounds. If this is not forthcoming, consideration must be given to the best interests of any child(ren) in placement. If it is felt that their interests would not be served by a change of placement, an interim assessment must be presented to Fostering Panel until those young people have moved on, at which time the couple would be de-registered.
If an assessment is completed and does not recommend approval and/or the Fostering Panel does both recommend approval the matter needs exploration with the existing carer about their position, but the same procedures will apply as above.
Once the assessment is completed, it should be presented to Fostering Panel in the usual way. The Panel must consider the evidence and make a recommendation. If the approved carer is already approved individually at level 2, the joint approval will also be at level 2.
2. Applicants without Previous Relationships
If applicants have not had previous significant relationships then this must be explored within the assessment, including within the analysis, by the assessing Social Worker.